One of the West Elm Caleb Women Speaks Out Against TikTok Harassment Campaign

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At first, it appeared like innocent enjoyable, a plotline straight lifted from feminine buddy romcoms like The Other Woman or John Tucker Must Die: a bunch of girls found, by way of the energy of social media, that they’d all been relationship the identical man. West Elm Caleb, as he soon came to be known, was stated to be a 6’4″ 25-year-old furnishings designer for the upscale furnishings model who had a really particular MO: after matching with varied girls on relationship apps after which showering them with compliments, he would summarily ghost them. It wasn’t till a creator made a video about one other 6’4″, New York city-based Caleb that ladies began banding collectively and sharing their very own experiences with West Elm Caleb on TikTok, which ranged from the absurd (Caleb apparently despatched a number of girls the identical moody Spotify playlist), to the extra critical (one lady alleged that Caleb despatched an unsolicited dick pics).

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West Elm Caleb rapidly turned a metaphor for single girls’s relationship struggles, with folks throughout the nation banding collectively in solidarity with the girls calling him out for his alleged unhealthy habits. Within only a few days, nevertheless, the West Elm Caleb narrative spun out management. People in TikTok video feedback began calling for him to be fired from his job, spamming the model’s Instagram account; manufacturers starting from intercourse toys to rival relationship apps to mayonnaise additionally began profiting off Caleb’s misfortune by alluding to the story in social posts and advertisements. What had began as a innocent, pretty native development calling out a nasty date quickly metamorphosed right into a mass harassment occasion, and the girls who had initiated the development largely watched helplessly as they noticed their movies tackle a life of their very own.

One of these girls was Leah, aka @jewishbrat, a TikTok creator who requested her final identify be withheld to guard her privateness (a courtesy that, in TikTok feedback, was not prolonged to West Elm Caleb, who was repeatedly doxxed). In an interview for Don’t Let This Flop, Rolling Stone‘s podcast about TikTok and web tradition, Leah tells co-hosts Brittany Spanos and Ej Dickson that she had matched with Caleb just a few months in the past and hit it off with him, just for him to later inform her that he had forgotten her quantity — a reasonably customary narrative in New York City relationship, and one which didn’t depart a lot of an impression on her. “It was a impartial, high-quality expertise for me,” she says. “It didn’t really feel nice he didn’t bear in mind me, however that’s form of the informal relationship scene and the way it works.”

When Leah noticed #WestElmCaleb was going viral on TikTok, she discovered it amusing and made a video recounting her expertise with him. “I used to be extra simply attempting to say, ‘Oh my god, how small is the New York relationship scene?’” she says. But as the development blew up and her video began getting an increasing number of views, she started to be disturbed by the tone of the feedback. “They began getting meaner and extra aggressive,” she says. “[It] occurred so rapidly and I used to be like, ‘OK, I have to say one thing.’ This shouldn’t be getting into the course I need it to go. Like, we will make a joke about the proven fact that he didn’t bear in mind who I used to be. That was humorous. But then it simply wasn’t humorous anymore.”

After Leah noticed New York Times reporter Taylor Lorenz’s TikTok video criticizing the West Elm Caleb development, she determined to take down her movies about him. “The extra I used to be listening to her, I had moments of reflection the place I used to be like, ‘It doesn’t matter how massive I’m blowing up, as a result of morally this isn’t the proper factor to do,’” she says. “I needed to make one thing humorous. I needed to speak about relationship in a productive method and discuss these unhealthy behaviors. It wasn’t productive. It was simply destroying somebody’s life.”

Leah’s expertise going viral has led her to be essential of some of the different creators who’ve left their very own Caleb movies up, and had been approached for profession alternatives akin to relationship actuality present roles or intercourse toy sponsorships in consequence. It has additionally led to her considering the position that TikTok performs in amplifying content material that, whether or not purposefully or not, targets non-public people for harassment. She compares the fervor over West Elm Caleb to that over Couch Guy, a school pupil who briefly captured the web’s consideration when he appeared in a clumsy video the place his girlfriend got here for a shock go to; and, extra worryingly, Sabrina Prater, a trans lady who turned the heart of transphobic TikTok conspiracy theories speculating she was a serial killer.

“Moving ahead, I’m going to be very, very cautious about the data that I share about different folks. It’s not me,” she says. “I don’t assume I’d need somebody to do the identical to me, and I take into consideration that loads. I used to be like, ‘This might have been me. I didn’t do the identical behaviors. I didn’t ship unsolicited images, however this might have been me getting on this hassle.’”

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